Sept. 30 2015 11:18 AM

25 years of antics, shenanigans and unforgettable performances

Joe Aguilar of The Burning of Rome, Josh Damigo, Geezer
Photos courtesy of John Hancock

The votes have been cast, the social media campaigns have run their course and soon we'll find out who will take home trophies at the 25th anniversary San Diego Music Awards ceremony. If the event is true to form, the night's unscripted moments—stage stormings, acceptance shoutouts—will be just as exciting as the awards program and performances.

It's not all mischief, of course. The San Diego Music Awards benefits the San Diego Music Foundation, which has helped support elementary school music programs for more than 25 years, and has served more than 55,000 students with programs such as Guitars for Schools, which provides the instruments to San Diego schools. The awards show may be a wild party, but it's for a good cause.

So with the silver anniversary San Diego Music Awards ahead of us (Monday, Oct. 5) at Humphreys By the Bay, here's a look back at some of the show's most incredible moments.

The Burning of Rome go hog wild

The Burning of Rome took the stage in dramatic fashion in 2009, flanked by a series of actual pig heads on poles. The group gave an intense performance, which would have been memorable enough as it was, but their porcine companions made the it impossible to forget.

Singer Adam Traub says the idea came from an iconic piece of literature.

“The piece itself was supposed to be an homage to William Golding,” he says. “When we came out it was to an audio sample of Golding reading from Lord of the Flies, when the wayward children go into the forest with the boar, as an offering to the wilderness.

“That was kind of our offering to San Diego,” he continues. “We didn't win that year, so I guess it didn't work.”

The band purchased the heads at a Barrio Logan butcher shop, and while they were easily obtained, they realized the employees at the shop had trouble digesting the concept.

“They seemed really confused,” Traub says.

Geezer pulls a Kanye

In 2009, Kanye West made headlines by interrupting Taylor Swift's VMA acceptance speech. But that sort of thing has also been known to happen at our own hometown music awards, like in 2010 when geriatric Weezer cover band Geezer stepped up to the podium before the actual Best Cover Band winner, 40 Oz. to Freedom, could claim their prize.

“I'd just like to call shenanigans!” shouted Geezer singer Adam Gimbel Sr., before 40 Oz. to Freedom could get a word in edgewise. “Get off our lawn!” Gimbel attributes the interruption to a senior moment. “We'd never been to any of these things before,” says Gimbel. “We heard our name and we didn't know any better. Little did we know that we hadn't won, and it was too late.”

Punk rock chase

Much like Geezer's interruption of the Best Cover Band award in 2010—albeit without the in-character silliness— Unwritten Law drummer Wade Youman beat Little Hurricane to the podium in 2011 when they won for Album of the Year. But his encore performance came during his exit from the stage, which included knocking down a whole section of chairs like a row of dominoes.

Josh Damigo zings a CityBeat staffer

Yes, even CityBeat has been part of the onstage antics— unexpectedly. In 2009, Josh Damigo won the award for Best Local Recording. Then-music-editor Seth Combs wasn't impressed, and had remarked on Twitter that, “Josh Damigo sucks balls.” Damigo, who didn't know Combs at the time, didn't think much of it, but after a brief war of words on social media, the two ended up meeting in person and burying the hatchet—if not their musical disagreement.

A year later, Damigo won the award for Best Acoustic, and got a spark of inspiration from his friend and fellow musician Rob Deez, who suggested he return the barbs at Combs.

“When I won, I needed to go up and say something,” Damigo says. “I walk on stage, and I had been going through a lot of stuff with my brother, so I mentioned that. And a lot of people seemed to be listening, and it just kind of came out: ‘Seth Combs, you can suck my balls.'” The two hugged it out and had a laugh afterward. “We were just having fun,” Damigo says.

Stone Temple Protest

When Stone Temple Pilots won Album of the Year in 1993 for their debut, Core, it didn't sit right with everyone, particularly Uncle Joe's Big Ol' Driver frontman David Jass, who insisted STP were not a San Diego band. They did have connections to San Diego—Robert and Dean DeLeo grew up here—but were mostly active in Los Angeles.

So Jass, feeling a little bold after the announcement, decided to share his own feelings about the award.

“We had gotten some plush jackets for the occasion, and some libations—maybe a little too much,” he says in a phone interview from his new home in Minnesota. “It just kind of escalated.

“[Stone Temple Pilots] weren't a San Diego band. They just weren't,” he continues.

The protest ended up in a scuffle between Jass and members of Asphalt Ballet, which Danse Macabre's Gino Maraventano helped break up.

Jass doesn't regret vocalizing his disagreement with the outcome. “I'm not sure exactly what I said, but I stand by it,” he says.

The Locust

There really isn't a band in San Diego whose entire existence is more of a spectacle than The Locust. They're noisy, chaotic and intense—so much so that it's hard to process everything that's happening. The San Diego Music Awards has had a lot of performers over the years, but none whose six minutes of stage time was as much of a head-fuck as The Locust's in 2004. Feedback, electronic noise, grindcore blasts and unsettling costumes ensured no act could follow them.

Retox's drummer bangs out a solo

Hardcore outfit Retox has been nominated for Best Hard Rock (band) a few times—including this year—though to date they hadn't won. They did claim the Best Hard Rock Album in 2012 for Ugly Animals. But the following year, when The Schitzophonics were announced as the winner of Best Hard Rock, Retox drummer Brian Evans used the opportunity to play a drum solo. His intention, he says, was to “go up there and smash the fuck out of it.”

“In the past, there have been some antics at the San Diego Music Awards,” he continues. “I just wanted to take part in the tradition.”

The drums belonged to The Palace Ballroom's Danny King, but Evans says King didn't mind having them hijacked for half a minute.

“He had a good chuckle,” Evans says. “He's one of my old friends.”


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